Jane Peyton, beer sommelier, looks at why beer is the perfect complement to a post ride meal
Barley: The Magic Ingredient
The definition of beer is: An alcoholic drink made from fermented barley.
Starch in the barley converts to sugar during a process called malting. The barley is now known as ‘malt’. Those sugars are then fermented by yeast and converted to alcohol. Beer is very low in sugar and in terms of calories it is much lower than people perceive. A pint of 4% beer contains around 190 calories. So in moderate quantities no need to worry about gaining weight and struggling on climbs.
During the malting process the barley is toasted, sometimes roasted, sometimes burned. The colour of beer comes from the colour of the malt and that colour depends on how much heat the barley was subject to during malting.
Those malts also give flavour to beer – and these flavours depend on the intensity of the heat during malting. There is a big range of flavours from malt – for instance, bread, biscuits, honey, toast, caramel, nuts, toffee, coffee, chocolate, charcoal. These flavours are very good at complementing the flavours in food.
Beer: Perfect With Any Meal
Beer can play an important role in rehydration and appetite stimulation, aiding the intake of calories for multi-day riding. It is equally at home with pub grub or with fine dining – savoury or sweet. It is versatile and diverse and has several physical properties that make it such a good for match for food.
Water: Beer consists of up to 95% water which is why cyclists crave it for post ride rehydration. It also refreshes the mouth, ready for another mouthful of food.
Hops: Most bitterness in beer comes from hops. Bitter compounds stimulate the appetite and kickstart digestion by rousing digestive enzymes in saliva. Bitterness also balances the richness of food and the hops act like knives cutting through flavour and texture.
Carbon Dioxide: Beer contains CO2 and this is an efficient palate scrubber. The brain registers most flavour through aromas emitted from food and drink and these stimulate olfactory cells in the nose via the mouth. CO2 helps to release those all-important aromas so we get the most out of our food and drink. CO2 which adds a note of invigorating acidity and lightens up the richness of food. Carbon dioxide, along with hops cut through the texture of food.
When choosing a beer to pair with food this is a useful mantra – Cut, Complement, or Contrast.
Cut: choose a beer that cuts through the flavour or body of the food. For instance, fish and chips with a crisp refreshing beer such as pilsner lager or India pale ale to cut through the fat, and citrus flavoured hops to complement the fish.
Complement: choose a beer that will complement the flavours of the food. For instance, meat that has been caramelized during cooking matches well with classic British bitters that display malty caramel flavours.
Contrast: choose a beer that is a complete contrast to the food. For example, a full flavoured chocolatey porter or stout with a salty Stilton cheese.
These are simple tips to help decide which beer goes with which food.
Jane Peyton is an accredited beer sommelier, founder of the School of Booze (www.School-of-Booze.com) and is currently Imbibe Magazine’s Drinks Educator of the Year. She is the instigator and driving force of the UK’s national beer day – Beer Day Britain.
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